Gèn (Keeping Still). Hexagram 52 (Sheet 5 from the series "Book of Changes" (I Ching – 易經)

Alexander Aksinin

  • Gèn (Keeping Still). Hexagram 52 (Sheet 5 from the series "Book of Changes" (I Ching – 易經) 2
  • Gèn (Keeping Still). Hexagram 52 (Sheet 5 from the series "Book of Changes" (I Ching – 易經) 3
Basic information
Alexander Aksinin
Gèn (Keeping Still). Hexagram 52 (Sheet 5 from the series "Book of Changes" (I Ching – 易經)
Date of creation
imprint on paper
Dimensions (height x width, cm)
10.5 x 7.9
Information about author
Alexander Aksinin
Artist's lifetime
Alexander Aksinin was a graphic artist and one of the brightest representatives of Lviv nonconformist culture. He was born on October 2, 1949 in Lviv in the family of a military cartographer and railroad official of the Lviv railway. Between 1963 and 1966, he received his art education at the evening art school in Lviv. Between 1967 and 1972, the artist continued his studies at the Ivan Fedorov Ukrainian Polygraphic Institute, where he specialized in Graphic Art. After graduation, Aksinin served in the Soviet Army, where he participated in the design of the exposition of the Military History Museum. Between 1974 and 1977, he worked as an art designer in an industrial design office. In 1977, he left the official service and began to work exclusively as a freelance artist. The apartment of Aksinin and his wife, the writer and artist Engelina (Gelya) Buriakovska (1944–1982), became one of the Lviv centers of informal art; first home exhibitions were held here. Alexander and Gelya were well acquainted with the representatives of the cultural underground of Moscow and Leningrad, in particular, with Dmitri Prigov, Viktor Krivulin, Ilya Kabakov, and others. They also had friendly relations with Baltic artists, first of all, with Tonis Vint, with whom Alexander developed a close rapport, and Polish ones. Since 1974, Aksinin participated in group exhibitions; in 1979, his first personal exhibition was organized in Tallinn with the assistance of the artist Tonis Vint. In the early 1980s, the poet Viktor Krivulin helped to arrange several of Aksinin's "kvartirnik" exhibitions in Leningrad and Moscow. On May 3, 1985, on his way back from Tallinn, Alexander Aksinin died in a plane crash over Zolochiv near Lviv. During his lifetime, the artist created 343 etchings, about 200 sheets of unique drawn graphics (drawings in watercolor, Indian ink, and gouache, including prints), as well as five paintings. 27 volumes of the artist's diaries for the period from 1965 to 1985 contain more than 200 sketches and a large number of drawings-ideas; they are partially publicly available on the artist's personal website. In 2015, Alexander Aksinin's etching series "Boskhiana" was included in the permanent exposition of the Jheronimus Bosch Art Center in Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands. The works are stored in the Lviv National Art Gallery, the Estonian Art Museum, and the National Art Museum of Ukraine. In 1981, Alexander Aksinin wrote his laconic autobiography for an article by Viktor Krivulin, in which he consciously contrasted his inner world with external events, combining the facts of his biography with his own artistic and metaphysical experience: “In 1949, a seemingly Russian man was born in the seemingly European city of Lviv. Orthodox Christian. In 1972 – received a diploma from the Polygraphic Institute in the field of Graphic Art. In 1977 – the first revelation with a concomitant sense of time. In 1981 – the second revelation with a concomitant sense of eternity. In 1979 – the first solo exhibition in Tallinn. In 1981 – the second one in Poland. That is all.”
Object description
Alexander Aksinin's legacy of graphic works contains a series of etchings based on some literary works, as well as a visual interpretation of the hexagrams of the ancient Chinese "Book of Changes" (1984–1985).
This is the fifth of 14 sheets of an unfinished series of hexagrams from the ancient Chinese book "I Ching". It was also known as "The Book of Changes" and stated as one of five canons of Confucianism in the 2d century BC. Alexander Aksinin had always been interested in Far Eastern philosophy. He worked on a series of hexagrams for "The Book of Changes" from 1984 to 1985 (until his death in May 1985). As a result, the artist managed to create 14 compositions each illustrating a certain piece of 64 hexagrams. Each work was dedicated to a particular individual.
Alexander Aksinin created Hexagram 52, Gèn (Keeping Still), as a birthday present to Yuriі Hittik. The author’s dedication saying "To Yurii L. Hittik / ♀ (symbol of Venus)" was placed in the second column of the lower text strip of the plate. Having made 10 imprints with the above dedication, the artist cut the lower part of the strip. So, the forthcoming etchings, including the one kept in Borys Voznytskyi Lviv National Art Gallery, were created using a cut plate without the final part of the text.
The composition consists of illustrative and textual sections. In the foreground, against the black sky, one can see a giant structure resembling a faceted semi-folded screen depicting fragments of the dragon's body on the faces. The black dots connected to each other by lines are above the dragon. A seated female figure is schematically represented on the axis of the imprint at the bottom, between the facets of the structure. The woman focuses her attention on one of the black dots on the wall. This is an allusion to the story of Bodhidharma, the founder of Zen teachings. Legend has it, while seeking the truth, the monk spent 9 years meditating on a bare wall in a cave.
At the top, on the composition’s axis, one can see a small bright circle reminiscent of the moon or a planet. It is placed on the background of the black sky. Near the edges of the structure, arranged in the perspective on the left, there is another barely visible figure, which is accentuated by the circle of the celestial body in the sky. To the right of the dominant composition, that is, the construction with the female figure, there are some additional elements. It is a bird in the foreground, which resembles the Ibis bird, a symbol of Thoth, the ancient Egyptian deity of wisdom, as well as mountain peaks depicted in perspective and partially reflected in one facet of the screen.
Below the illustration, there is a text that contains Alexander Aksinin's interpretation of the six positions of Hexagram 52 from "I Ching" book: "concentration on the toes—favorable for eternal fortitude/ concentration in the calves—you will not save the one you follow/ stop in the hips—they move away from the lower back/ 52/ Gèn keeping still/ 4 / the fourth six—concentration in the torso/ stop in the neck—in speeches let there be perseverance/ strengthen the concentration—happiness".
It is no coincidence that the artist presented Hexagram 52 of "The Book of Changes" to his friend. Yurii Hittik was a researcher at the Institute of Economics at that time, thus the hexagram visually depicted the scientific knowledge problems. The conceptual context of "I Ching" comprehended by Alexander Aksinin translates into developing the motives of concentration and deep immersion into the reflection.

Yurii Hittik (b. 1956), a native of Ukraine. Between 1979 and 1990, he worked as a researcher at the Lviv branch of the Institute of Economics. Being a friend of Alexander Aksinin, he was honored with four works by the artist. In 1988, Yurii Hittik published the first complete catalog of Alexander Aksinin’s printed graphics. In 2008, together with his wife, Mariia Shchur, he created a website dedicated to the artist's works. As of today, the site continues to be maintained by them.